Friday, November 1, 2013

Nick's House of Horrorthon



Post-holiday depression. While suicide rates skyrocket during Christmas/New Year's, to me no part of the year is as down as the days immediately following Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon. Knowing you have to wait a whole twelve months until the best/most intense weekend of your calendar year can only be assuaged in one of two ways: self-induced coma, or programming your own fanciful lineup. Why let jocks monopolize fantasy scenarios? Without another sentence of preamble (excluding this one of course), I present, my curated 24-Hour Horrorthon:

Noon

Martin (1976)

We start things off mainstreamly (for this crowd anyway) with George Romero's psychological vampire drama. John Amplas plays a young (or unknowably ancient?) man who has a propensity for slitting wrists with razors and feasting on the blood of bored suburban Pittsburgh housewives. Cousin Cuda tries to guilt the vampire out of him. Romero himself and makeup legend Tom Savini appear as priests in my favorite non-Dead Romero film.


1:35

Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

A guy dreams about the people who died in Alcatraz, visits it and his brother gets possessed by a demon and then people die. Whatever. The real attraction here is Toni Basil in a starring role and Devo's soundtrack, which makes it worth it (to me) to see on a big screen with an audience. Like I said, it's fantasy. Let me have my fun.


3:05

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1973)

They've never shown a Hammer film at a horrothon and have had far too little Cushing, and this would be a nice remedy. The last of the British studio's Frankenstein cycle, the mad doctor becomes the head of a sanitarium so that he can carry on his experiments on the inmates, left to his own devious devices. Aside from another usually great Cushing performance this one has a genuinely creepy exhumation scene, a ton of extras wandering around as Victorian-era mental patients, the Bond series' original M, Bernard Lee, and the beautiful Madeline Smith. Bonus points for a pre-Vader Dave Prowse under that gonzo monster makeup, but then again, I'm guessing that wouldn't mean much to the Exhumed crowd.


4:35

The World's Greatest Sinner (1962)

A few films in, now things can start to get weird, courtesy of Renaissance Man Timothy Carey, with his directorial debut about an insurance salesman who decides to get into the politics/religion racket, specifically by declaring himself God. According to him, humans are have unlimited potential and the capacity for immortality.


He runs on this political platform (for some reason God needs to be president?), sports a cutout goatee and puts on rock shows to spread his message, but how do the Real God and Devil feel about this affront? Also, Frank Zappa scores his first film!



5:55

The Unknown (1927)

The tragic tale of an armless (but not really) circus knife thrower's unrequited love for a woman who absolutely hates arms has all the contrivances and what-th? moments of any modern day ironic, self-reflexive, built-to-order cult movie. Unlike those, however, this silent masterpiece comes from the mind of a true outsider. In a time when there was only one way to see a movie -- on a big screen, in public, with a theater screening A SINGLE FILM at a time -- it's hard to imagine Tod Browning having a career, let alone making any classics, several of which paired him with the inimitable Lon Chaney, here playing Alonzo the Armless. Browning's work is infused with the love of the outre, the bizarre and the outcasts of society, no doubt influenced by his youth in the circus. Unlike, say, a Tim Burton, Browning has an almost childlike sincerity in dealing with all kinds of narrative developments, no matter how outlandish the plot gets (Alonzo is hiding out, pretending to be armless in the circus because the police are looking for a double-thumbed murderer, which just happens to be him). In its brief running time, what could easily be silly is ultimately very affective and operatic. If this were made today by a lesser director it would ooze snark and opening paragraphs of AICN reviews would end with "Did I mention it's a musical?!" as if this were the first time such a genre mashup had blown your mind.


7:00

Iron Rose (1973)

Jean Rollin's dreamy, poetic tone poem of a young, attractive couple cavorting in a cemetery. Unlike every other movie you've seen with this setup, there are no zombies, no vampires and no skeletons rising from any graves. Spookiness and atmosphere are the order of the day after the two get locked in overnight and as they get to know each other, the boy (Hugues Quester) discovers that the girl (the ravishing beauty Fran├žoise Pascal) may have only a tenuous grip on reality. Their fist date doesn't go as well as planned...

8:30

Viy (1967)

Zonkers Soviet adaptation of a Gogol short unfortunately didn't make it past the Iron Curtain on its initial release, which is a shame because Eastern European horror films from the era are matched in their visual bizareness only by the "kids" movies being made in Mexico around the same time. Here, after inadvertently killing an old woman, a young priest is tasked with sitting vigil over her corpse over three consecutive nights because, y'know, witches and demons and stuff. With each night, the priest is put through increasingly Exorcist IIian flying batshit craziness. In fact, I'd love to see a trailer for this scored to Magic & Ecstasy. Actually, this is being remade/readapted next year, in 3D, nonetheless. HIT IT, ENNIO!


9:50

Ganja & Hess (1973)

Bill Gunn's classic about an anthropologist-turned vampire, Dr. Hess Green (Night of the Living Dead's Duane Jones in only his second of two starring roles) falling in love with the wife of his deceased assistant (deceased because he killed him, but he started it...) is less about plot and more a meditation on addiction, African American identity, religion, immortality, redemption and sexuality. The producers looking for another early-70s Blaxploitation film got so much more. The first time I saw it I couldn't get it out of my mind for weeks. Hopefully it would have the same effect on a Horrorthon crowd. Marlene Clark as Ganja and Sam Waymon's soulfully experimental score will certainly help. Whil most likely not as good, the drastically shorter VHS version "Blood Couple" would be interesting to see for comparison-sake, but I wouldn't want that to be anyone's introduction to this masterpiece.


11:40

Cast a Deady Spell (1991)

I'll be honest. I don't remember a damn thing about this HBO movie, except that it had zombies doing construction. Director Martin Campbell married Lovecraft with a 1940s noir film, cast Fred Ward and David Warner and holyhowthehellcouldthisnotbehorrorthonmaterial?


1:15

Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures

Never seen it, but it's a non-Coffin Joe Coffin Joe film. The title alone makes it Horrorthon-worthy.


2:35

Femina Ridens (aka The Laughing Woman, aka The Frightened Woman) (1969)

Trippy, bizarro, sado-maso, psychological revenge flick, which Exhumed specializes in. I mean, this is EXACTLY the reason they started doing this 7 years ago. The kind of movie that makes you feel you've wasted your life by not watching it since birth.


4:25

Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve) (1971)

An old woman dies, leaving behind quite the inheritance to a bunch of family. You know what that means: MURDER MURDER MURDER MURDER. Downbeat, yet still enjoyable, and actually quite photographically beautiful, film from Mario Bava. This giallo is a bit of a precursor to later slasher films in its use of the killer's POV, not to mention some gruesome deaths that show up in the still unborn genre (most notably in the first Friday the 13th).


5:50

Sodoma's Ghost (1988)

NAZI GHOST IS LIEK IMA SEX YOU GIRL AND THE LADYS LIKE I DONT LIKE SEX AND THE NAZI GHOST IS LIKE IM GONNA SHOW YOU YOU DO LIKE SEX


7:15

Love at First Bite (1979)

Coming into the homestretch we lighten the mood a bit with George Hamilton as Dracula. Loved this and Zorro the Gay Blade as a kid, which led to me dressing up as George Hamilton for Halloween one year. If I ever find a picture of that, you'll be the first to know, dear readers.
Fun Fact: The first IMDb user review I saw while getting the run time and year of this movie was titled "This was great on the Big Screen, but the VHS was edited so heavily, it lost all its magic."


8:50

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

A mad Renaissance Man seeks revenge upon the doctors he holds responsible for his wife's death, visiting the 10 plagues of Egypt upon the 10 doctors, years before John Doe boxed heads. Art deco production design, a life size, clockwork orchestra, Terry-Thomas, and one of my all time favorite sight gags in a non-silent comedy film (involving a gold unicorn), this is pound for pound Vincent Price's most ludicrously enjoyable film, waking people up for the coup de grace...


10:25

Boxer's Omen (aka Mo) (1983)

Part of me thinks I should end with something more well-known, as Exhumed as always done in the past, but dammit, if you wanna go out on a bang...


And don't think the above clip is the final showdown or anything, because there's plenty more movie after that. Chih-Hung Kuei is apparently a genius that I've never heard of, based on this one Shaw Bros. film alone. He managed to combine Buddhism (or a skewed version of it) with women being born of crocodiles, talking mummies, exploding people, floating heads and all other manner of grindcore shenanigans to create a near-spiritual experience.


It's just...it's so...I can't. It's a movie like this that's kept me in semi-permanent retirement from film criticism. There are just no words. Even these few paltry clips and trailers don't do it justice. Make no mistake, it is crazier than you could begin to imagine, to the point where it becomes a transcendent experience. I'm not just cracking wise here. When it was over I felt transported. There's something cosmic about it. I suddenly felt connected to something greater than me, greater than the human race. It gave me a feeling akin to that I get from 2001: A Space Odyssey. No, I'm not kidding or using the least bit of sarcasm. It's the right note to go out on, and I'm not just talking about Horrorthon. I mean, they'd have to stop doing Horrorthons altogether.

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